Gold-plated breast standards? The NHS’ copper-bottomed guarantee

Picture this. Swish London restaurant. Penguin-suited maitre-d’ ushers you in to the kitchen where you present the finest of ingredients, all handpicked by you that afternoon from the best London markets. The faux-fracais accented chef inspects your produce closely, then gives the thumbs up: c’est magnifique!

(we-ell, he has to keep in character somehow).

Then he points you to the stove and insists that you get on and prepare your own meal. Gold standard? No way. Not even close.

The NHS Gold Standard

Yet that, according to some senior bigwig from the NHS, chatting to C4 news tonight, is precisely what will be offered to the thousands of women now terrified of the health risks posed by their PIP breast implants. France will pay for them to be removed. Germany will pay for them to be removed.

Back in good old Blighty, though, all that’s on offer is a check-up with a skilled clinician courtesy of the NHS, and their replacement on the state if the NHS put them in in the first place. Otherwise, its up to you. You need to sort out the private facility for removal. You need to pay for their replacement. You need to suffer the fear – and take the risk.

But this, according to our sharp-suite NHS bigwig, in contrast with the scuzzy diner offering from our continental neighbours, is the UK doing “gold standard”. Yeah, yeah: we’ve seen it all before.

The British way

In fact, it’s a very British way of doing things. Ignore and ignore and ignore and resist all claims until the last possible moment: cause the maximum upset amongst your customers (or patients, if you prefer).

Only when it becomes impossible to do anything else will you give in to the inevitable and pay for the work that you could probably have done up front in the first place without the grief, without all the costly legal bills – and without the collateral damage that may result from delay.

Mail misogyny

Sure: I can hear them now…the whingers over at the Taxpayers’ Alliance…and the guys around the bar of their local. These were COSMETIC procedures, for F’s sake. People opted for these operations as lifestyle choices and if they go wrong, tough.

Except that attitude itself is born of the most awful, misogynistic sexism: and the suggestion that it would be cheaper not to help out is just stupid.

The sexism comes with the unspoken “just” that always precedes the c-word. We live in a world in which women, from cradle to grave are made to feel bad about themselves according to how they look. Some avoid this burden, some feel it lightly – while for others it can become an intolerable psychological challenge.

The NHS recognises this already, in that many pct’s will pay for breast ops where there is either significant lopsideness or some other feature that causes constant embarrassment. In that sense, therefore, it certainly feels as though the NHS is suddenly beating a very swift retreat from established practice.

The cost of saving money

The stupidity lies in the knock-on damage likely to be done by this penny-pinching policy. Many of the enterprises that put these implants in, first time round, are no longer there. So any replacement will need to be paid for by the individual concerned. Who may or may not be able to afford the work, depending on how hard they had to save to begin with.

There will be fear and depression which will, in some instances, be enough to knock productive members of the workforce out of work. Cost! There will be botched removals, followed by individuals who now DO meet the pct subsidy criteria. Cost! There will be legal challenge. Cost! Worst of all will be the many implants going bad and requiring emergency surgery. Yet more cost!

At the end of the day, its not a choice between the government spending £150 million – which is, besides, no more than one of those Daily Mail conjured figures – and not spending anything. It’s a choice between spending whatever the real cost is… and the perhaps equally costly option of trying to get away with doing the minimum.

The real saving is likely to be far less. But the difference can be measured in trauma for the women involved.

Not even a gold-plated standard!



4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    It’s worth noting that breast reductions, one of the more common ‘cosmetic’ breast operations performed by the NHS, are rarely just about embarrassment. Many women with large breasts suffer constant pain as a result, which gets worse as they get older and often gets worse still if they get pregnant. And, in accordance with your other points here, if a man had problems of that sort he’d consider it his right to have something done about it.

  2. 2

    Seriously, what do people expect from the NHS and the British government in this ‘I’m alright Jack’ society that some of us must have voted to sustain. After all there are idiots who actually thought that voting Liberal Democrat wasn’t voting tory. The NHS still allows the three or four arcane and very over priced GRS surgeons to perform their piss poor and out dated methods to actually butcher people when there are fantastically skilled surgeons who can do an infinitely superior job for far less.
    As it would appear that PIP implants were sold at rock bottom, bargain basement prices perhaps the person or organisation responsible for purchasing clear substandard tat should be held liable by the NHS when they have to clear up the mess.
    But what would you expect???

    • 3

      janefae said,

      i’d expect nothing less, Sophie…but what i am trying to do, here and elsewhere, is highlight the real costs involved and…also ilustrate how some of the issues that face people thru the NHS don’t divide women and trans women but actually unite us.


  3. 4

    Yveque said,

    There are long waiting lists for women who have had breast cancer and are waiting for reconstruction. Are these PIP women to jump the queue? I’m sorry to say this, but many women who have implants treat the whole procedure as just like going to the hairdressers, granted, the cultural pressures that facilitate this attitude are wrong, but c’mon, I’m a woman, I have brain, I was going to have implants and thought long and hard about the reasons, and did not do it.

    . A woman of 25 who has had implants is likely to need 7 more operations in her lifetime. If these women had the money to do it initially, and can find the money to have them re-done when needed, they need to accept some responsibility (along with the clinics) when things go wrong. If the NHS keeps cleaning up the mess of private companies and individuals, they will be crowding out people such as the cancer victims mentioned above. The clinics need to sort their problem out, and they cannot just say “won’t do it, can’t afford it, let the NHS foot the bill”. There needs in future to be some kind of insurance sold when these procedures are done to help cover eventualities such as this current mess. Lessons need to be learned from this.

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